Melbourne Cup hopeful Gust Of Wind will have her first experience at the track where the famous race is run when she takes aim in the Group One Makybe Diva Stakes.
Sydney trainer John Sargent is sending the ATC Australian Oaks winner south for Saturday’s 1600m weight-for-age race as the mare continues on her path towards the Melbourne Cup at Flemington.
Gust Of Wind showed her staying prowess with victory in the Oaks in Sydney in the autumn and Sargent believes she has made the physical development needed to make her mark this spring.
The four-year-old worked in the anti-clockwise direction over 1600m on the Kensington track at Randwick on Tuesday in preparation for her first Melbourne start on Saturday.
“Blake Shinn rode her this morning and was very happy with her,” Sargent said.
“She’ll go down because she’s never been around Flemington, so it will be a good chance for her.”
Sargent said Gust Of Wind would return to Sydney after Saturday and then go back to Melbourne for either the Turnbull Stakes or The Bart Cummings, also at Flemington.
While he admits the 1600m is short of the stayer’s best trip, he wants to see her hitting the line strongly on Saturday.
“A mile at Flemington is probably like 2000 (metres) because it’s a hard mile, and that would suit her but she’ll come into her own once she gets over 2000.”
Ethereal is the last mare to have won an Oaks and gone on to win the Melbourne Cup as a four-year-old when the 2001 Queensland Oaks winner claimed the Cups double that year.
That’s not lost on Sargent but he says Gust Of Wind has returned big and strong and “looks like a five-year-old mare really”.
“So that augurs well that she might be able to step up against the big boys this year,” he said.
Another of Sargent’s spring hopes, Wakeful Stakes winner Thunder Lady, is entered for races in Sydney and Melbourne on Saturday and the trainer said on Tuesday morning a final decision had not been made.